Music

‘Drag Race’ Star Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige Was More Than Happy to Serve as This Season’s Lip Sync Assassin

Attention, staff! It’s time for us to circle back to the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where the contestants brought all the corporate synergy they could to the main stage.

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On Friday’s episode (March 15), the seven remaining queens of season 16 were tasked with performing in a series of employee training seminars to help the staffers of the world learn how to handle drag in the workplace. Whether they were giving a much-needed history lesson about the art of drag or teaching their corporate underlings what to do (or more importantly, not do) in the presence of a queen, the girls pulled together an informative all-hands meeting for their loyal viewers.

With a hilarious performance centered around teaching employees whether or not they are drag queens, Sapphira Cristál took home her third challenge win of the season, making her the winningest contestant of the season thus far. Meanwhile, after a pair of less-than-ideal showings, Morphine Love Dion and Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige were put under performance review by the panel of judges.

Lip synching to Donna Summers’ 1979 hit “Dim All the Lights,” Dion and Le’Paige pulled out all of the stops (and in some cases, parts of their own costumes) to earn their employers’ adoration. At the end, Dion kept her spot in the company, while Le’Paige was handed a cardboard box and asked to collect her things by EOD.

Below, the Queen of Flips breaks down the art of lip synching, what it means to be season 16’s unquestioned lip sync assassin, and how it felt being labelled the “quiet” queen of the season.

You made it to the top seven on this season! How are you feeling about your run on the show?

I’m feeling good about everything. I know I made my family and my friends proud, and Florida. I feel like I could have done better, but you know, it is what it is!

Well, you made history by joining a very elite group of Drag Race queens who won three or more lip syncs, including queens like Jujubee, Alexis Mateo and Coco Montrese, among others. What does it mean for you to be in that esteemed company?

I’m so honored, first and foremost. Yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that, if I’m being completely honest! But the names that you just said, it is an honor to be a part of that group of girls. It’s great to be a lip sync assassin, I’ll be honest. [Laughs.]

Yeah, it felt like the girls were genuinely scared to be in the bottom with you, and rightfully so. 

Yes they were! They even told me, on the show, that they never wanted to go against me in the bottom. Like, with Dawn for example … I kind of told her that if she was in the bottom because of me this week, and we had to lip sync, I said that I was going to beat her. But if the judges said, “Mhi’ya, shantay you stay,” I would’ve refused and asked them to let Dawn stay. I felt like she deserved it more, and it was my fault we were in the bottom. 

I’m always fascinated by the art of lip synching and what makes them so entertaining. So, as someone who nails almost every lip sync you do, what do you think is the key to giving a top-tier lip sync performance, on or off the show?

For me, when I was lip syncing, it was all about selling the song to the judges. Whatever song I was lip syncing to, there were a couple of things I had to make sure I was doing; I wanted to make sure I was on beat, I wanted to make eye contact with the judges, and I wanted to take over the whole stage. That, to me, is what it’s all about, is dominating the stage and pretending like no one is there but you and the judges. 

Which brings us to this particular lip sync, where you were definitely aware of the other queen on the stage, to the point where you threw your detached train onto Morphine mid-song. Between that, and her throwing her chicken cutlets at you, this felt like peak Drag Race shenanigans. How aware were you in the moment about the iconic moments you were both serving?

Oh, let me tell you, none of that was planned for this lip sync. I knew that the train was detachable, so I knew at some point it was coming off. But when I saw her down on the floor, I said, “Oh, okay, here’s my chance to throw her off her game.” So I spun around and threw that train! It kinda became a little catfight. [Laughs.]

We absolutely also need to talk about that Cher-meets-Kermit the Frog impression you attempted while on stage. After you filmed that moment, did you anticipate fans running with this moment as much as they have since?

I mean, I made literal merch out of it, and everywhere I go, I am asked to do that Cher impersonation. Everywhere I’m going people are asking me to do Cher on the mic, and people just fall out when I do it. So, I’m happy to see it! 

Throughout the season, I noticed you got more than a few critiques, either from the judges or the other girls or even the fans online, about you being a “quiet” queen. Did that ever feel difficult to hear, either on set or online?

Yeah, it was definitely difficult to hear the judges say it as much as they did. But, I will say, there were times when I would try to come out of my shell, and prove to the judges that I’m not as quiet or timid as some people might think I am.

I mean, Snatch Game seems like a pretty excellent example of that!

Yes, I was so proud of myself after Snatch Game. Honestly, before we started filming, I was fully s—ting bricks. I was so, so nervous, and had no idea what I was going to do. But once they said action, something just came over me, and it really felt like I became this other person. It was so much fun. 

Before we let you go, I’d love to know — what music have you been listening to lately?

Oh, the album I’ve listened to every day for the last few weeks is Doja Cat’s Scarlet. I love it so much. The song, though, is probably “Ouchies” — I am obsessed with that whole song. 

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